Freedom of Information

Clark County Office of the Coroner v. Las Vegas Review-Journal

August 20, 2018

The Reporters Committee and 11 media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is seeking juvenile autopsy records from the Clark County Office of the Coroner under the Nevada Public Records Act so that it may report on patterns of fatal abuse or neglect of children. The Las Vegas Review-Journal prevailed below, and the Office of the Coroner appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, arguing that the records are not available under the NPRA.  The amicus brief highlights the important reporting that has been done using autopsy reports, including stories about the health and safety of children, official misconduct, occupational health, and government fraud.  The amicus brief argues that the position of the Office of the Coroner, if adopted, would impede news reporting on matters of public concern.

Comments on Proposed United States Department of Agriculture FOIA Regulations

July 25, 2018

The Reporters Committee submitted comments on proposed updates to the United States Department of Agriculture's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations. The comments recommend that USDA (1) update its definition of "representatives of the news media" to comport with the 2007 FOIA amendments, and (2) add language implementing the foreseeable harm standard introduced in the 2016 FOIA amendments.  

Better Government Association v. City of Chicago Law Department

March 9, 2018
The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in support of Better Government Association ("BGA") in the Supreme Court of Illinois. BGA filed an Illinois FOIA request with the City of Chicago for documents relating to the prosecution of the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. The special prosecutor in the criminal case sought a protective order "to prevent entities like the City from complying" with FOIA requests for documents relating to the prosecution. BGA's request was denied in part due to the protective order. RCFP's amicus brief argues that a protective order sought to bar dissemination of public records cannot trump an agency's duties under FOIA.

Reporters Committee Files Suit Against DHS, CBP, Demanding Compliance With FOIA

Jose Ochoa | Freedom of Information | News | January 24, 2018
January 24, 2018
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a lawsuit against United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over the agencies’ failure to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records relating to a summons the agencies issued to Twitter in March.
This past April, CBP sought to unmask the authors of an anonymous Twitter account publishing viewpoints that are critical of President Trump’s immigration policies using the handle @ALT_uscis.  According to a lawsuit filed by Twitter, a CBP agent sent Twitter a summons by fax on March 14, 2017, ordering the company to provide certain records relating to the @ALT_uscis account, including user names, account login, phone numbers, and mailing and IP addresses.

Sander & The First Amendment Coalition v. State Bar of California et al.

January 31, 2018

The Reporters Committee and 13 media organizations filed an amicus brief in a case in the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, challenging the trial court's holding denying of a request under the California Public Records Act by a law professor and the First Amendment Coalition for a database concerning applicants to the State Bar of California. The trial court denied the request in part because it held that the processes for anonymizing the database proposed by the requesters would constitute the creation of a new record, which is not required under the CPRA. The amicus brief argues that the CPRA specifically contemplates anonymization of records and that the process of anonymization is not the same as the creation of a new record. The amicus brief further argues that the trial court gave insufficient weight to the public interest served by disclosure of the records sought by the requesters.

Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and Campaign for Accountability v. Consumer Credit Research Foundation

January 29, 2018

The Reporters Committee and three media organizations filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of Georgia, challenging an intermediate appellate court's holding that all exemptions to the state's open-records law are mandatory. The brief argues, first, that decision violates the text and purpose of the Act. Second, the Court of Appeals’ interpretation would lead to untenable policy consequences, such as preventing state agencies from releasing any information if it falls into one of the exemptions. Finally, the Court of Appeals’ approach would make Georgia an outlier among the states and the federal government, leaving citizens here with far less access to government information than they would enjoy in most other jurisdictions.

National Conference of Black Mayors v. Chico Community Publishing

January 24, 2018

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM) filed a reverse-California Public Records Act (CPRA) lawsuit to block the release of records requested by the Sacramento News & Review (SN&R) related to Johnson's use of public resources for his work as president of the NCBM. Though the SN&R ultimately obtained hundreds of pages of records through the litigation, the trial court denied the paper's motion seeking attorneys' fees. SN&R appealed, arguing that it is entitled to attorneys fees under the mandatory fee-shifting provision of the CPRA. The Reporters Committee and 14 media organizations filed an amicus brief supporting SN&R's appeal of the fee denial.

Institute for Justice v. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation

December 6, 2017

The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in the Illinois Supreme Court in a state Freedom of Information Act case concerning the retroactive application of a new exemption enacted during the pendency of the case. The brief argues that (1) a rule permitting the retroactive application of new FOIA exemptions would undermine the well-established public policy of Illinois in favor of transparency, and (2) given the important interests at stake the Court should adopt a clear-statement rule for all amendments to FOIA.

The Privacy Act

Amid the passage of open meetings and open records laws, the federal government also recognized a citizen’s right to avoid improper distribution of data it keeps about them. The 1974 Privacy Act also allows citizens to find out what information the government keeps on them, primarily in order to ensure its accuracy.

How the Privacy Act works

The Privacy Act, like FOIA, is relatively simple to use. Identify the agency that you think may have records about you — such as the FBI, CIA or IRS. Send a request letter giving the agency enough information so it can be sure of your identity and know which files to search. (See the sample letter.)

Letter to Governor Cuomo re FOIL Bill A2750A

October 19, 2017

The Reporters Committee and 33 newsmedia organizations sent a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in support of Bill No. A2750A. The bill would amend New York's Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") to strengthen its fee-recovery provision.